A potentially verrrrry interesting match tomorrow: Serena Williams versus Frenchwoman Amelie Mauresmo.
Mauresmo (photo below) has more finesse and grace, and one of the better net games. But she often chokes and apparently lacks mental toughness. Serena can overpower and dominate games, even when she's out of shape. She's the best at intimidation and mind games. In their previous 11 matches, Serena has won 9. But if Mauresmo is on, she can be terrific. She's always a joy to watch, as she has a greater repertoire of shots than most players do these days and fluid, graceful movement.
Friday: Make that 10/12 for Serena. She beat Mauresmo 7-6(5), 6-1. Sigh.....poor Amelie.
Blake and Roddick out already, and it's only the second round! Maria Sharapova is also out. She might want to spend more time on practice and less time on fashion and jewelry design, if she really wants to win another Grand Slam.
What a great game the Celtics played last night! I haven't followed basketball for years. I lost interest in the mid-90's or so, when the selfish gangster players seemed to dominate the game, assaulting other players and their coaches. ("Practice?You want me to practice?") But I guess I've been missing some really amazing basketball, 'cause last night's game was a thing of beauty. And obviously the Celts have been doing that all season. What incredible passing, play after play after play. The Big D was huge. Captain Paul Pierce showed a fierce determination to play even after suffering a sprained knee. Celtics 98, Lakers 88. Great win! let's do that again, Celtics!
The French Open Ladies Final this Saturday promises to be exciting. Often the finals are duds, as one player just creams the other. I guarantee that won't be the case on Saturday, when the belly-baring Russian Dinara Safina plays Serbian NATO-bombing survivor Ana Ivanovic.Both fierce, plucky, beautiful, with many tennis skills (not just whaling away at the baseline, although they do a lot of that). There will be lots of cat-and-mouse and winning shots. They've both played terrific tennis throughout their march to the finals. I believe it's the first time at a Grand Slam final for Safina, the second (at least) for Ivanovic. Ought to be a gutsy scorcher.
"Not anyone of Manny’s home runs
will be dispusted as being steroid induced compared to other past
recent players to shatter home run marks. Injecting steroids, well, that
just wouldn’t be Manny being Manny now would it?"
The 500 HR Club is quiet exclusive, with only 24 members. The two other Red Sox members are Ted Williams and Jimmy Foxx. Fantastic achievement, and Manny's only 36. Maybe he'll eventually be a member of the 600 or 700 HR Club too!
And the Boston Celtics are in the NBA Finals? Man, it's been a really long time! And against the fancy-pants LA Lakers to boot. Excellent! Boston Dirt Dogs has a good line: "Kareem, Magic, and Worthy Aren't Gonna Come Walkin' Through That Door ...But Kobe Is!" Nice article at the NY Times about Paul Pierce. Boston sports fans are so damned lucky!!
I watched the Super Bowl on Sunday at a party with friends, and then I watched it again last night. Maybe I'm a masochist, maybe this second viewing counts as a penitential activity for Lent. It was pretty painful both times. I'm not heartbroken or stunned (I'm not that big of a Pats fan), but I remain mystified. Who were those guys out there in Patriots' uniforms and what happened to the real Patriots??
Their mojo was not working. There were about a dozen chances for the Patriots to tie or win - but instead we saw missed catches, missed interceptions, missed fumble recovery. Not to mention forgoing the field goal when the Pats were on 4th down with 13 yards to go. They didn't make their customary half-time adjustments. In any other game, a couple of things would have gone their way, but in this game, nothing went their way. Poor Tom got slammed all evening. Again, I'm bewildered - what happened to his offensive linemen who almost always gave him an inpenetrable pocket that he could step into for one thousand one - one thousand two- one thousand three before firing off a laser-guided rocket? How were the Giants so successful at doing what no other team managed to figure out the entire season?
Kudos to the Giants, they really came on like gang-busters at the end of the season. I'm disapppointed that the Pats didn't make history, but they gave us a terrific season. Here's a video of Tom Brady's 50 TD passes, fuzzy but a thing of beauty nonetheless:
Props to our modern-day gladiators! How can these big guys be so agile? Watching football is like watching a real, live chess game, except that instead of making one move at a time, each side makes ten moves at a time. Go Pats!!!
"On Friday night (11-2-07), the suddenly outspoken Manny Ramirez is slated to appear on the "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7, NBC) at 11:30 p.m. The Backstreet Boys are also scheduled to appear. No word on whether Manny plans to sing or dance along with the group."
"Later on Friday night (11-2-07), David Ortiz (above) is scheduled to appear on "Late Night with Conan O'Brien," also on Ch. 7 at 12:30 p.m."
Papelbon was on David Letterman earlier this week, the transcript and tape can be had here. Intense dude!
Justin Henin soundly beat Serena Williams last night (7-6, 6-1), so Justin advances to the semifinals. Bill Dwyre of the LA Times wrote: "Justine Henin of Belgium...ran faster, hit better and deserved to win." Serena got her butt kicked in the second set.
In what is not atypical for Serena, she couldn't find anything nice to say about her opponent at the post-game press conference:
Serena was asked by one reporter, "Are you saying that Justine didn't win this game, that you lost it?" Serena responded: "Absolutely (she cut herself off). Was I playing my best game? No! I think that's usually the case with me, that it's for me to win or lose."
Sorry, my dear, lots of people win games when they aren't in top form. Justine herself served rather poorly last night, getting in only 50% of her first serves. And as a commenter notes here, " losing because you did not play your best is often a result of pressure from your opponent." Maybe Serena should go to Sport Camp and learn "how to win with grace and to accept defeat with class."
Serena, try saying something like this next time: "My opponent played a great game tonight, and she deserved to win."
Match stats here, Henin's numbers are better in most categories.
FYI, NY Times has a good blog about the US Open here.
I've been watching the U.S. Open Tennis Tournament, and once again, I am dumbfounded that the women get the same amount of prize money as the men in the Grand Slam events. There have been some fantastic men's matches, including every match that James Blake played (esp. w/Fabrice Santoro, amazing stuff!). Sadly, Blake lost today to the German Tommy Haas, in a five-set match that went into a tiebreak in the fifth set. Edge of the seat game and top-flight tennis. Roger Federer versus 6'9" American John Isner was also a hugely entertaining match. Many of the men's matches have gone to five sets (men play best of five), and many sets have gone to tiebreak ("extra" play if the set ends in a tie).
On the other hand, most of the women's matches so far have been almost unwatchable. They're simply not competitive. Most have been blow-outs and are over in about an hour. The men, meanwhile, play dramatic matches that go on for three and four hours. The women mostly whale away from the baseline (outside edge of the court), and one player either hits it long or dumps it into the net. There are far more errors than winning shots in most women's games. The men display far more versatility in their game, generally going to the net more, you see more slice backhands and lobs, they hit the overheads, sometimes after jumping up in the air and spinning around. Much of the women's play, in comparison, is plodding and predictable. Thank goodness the women's matches don't go five sets! It would be torturous to sit through. So how the heck did the women's prize money ever get to be the same as the men's? I understand that in the bad old days, women were grossly underpaid, but now they look overpaid to me. It's bizarre that both the top man and women get $1.4 million for the U.S. Open, when the first place man (obviously and literally) has to work two to three times as hard as the first place woman. Score a big one for the feministas. The women do draw crowds, but not as big as for the men's matches. Obviously TV advertising revenue is less for shorter matches. So how did the feministas pull that one off?
That said, there's a women's quarterfinals coming up that promises to be quite good: Justin Henin plays Serena Williams on Tuesday evening. The quarterfinals and semis are usually competitive.
Ted Robinson, one of the USA Network commentators for the U.S. Open said a silly thing during Saturday night's match between Shahar Peer (Israel) and Agnieszka Radwanska (Poland). Robinson noted that Shahar, though not known in the U.S., is hugely popular in her country, like a rock star! Robinson said that Serbian women are equally famous in their country. "And Sania Mirza of India," he exclaimed, "has to travel with security!" Well, yes, but not because she's a rock (or Bollywood) star. The reason Miss Mirza has to travel with security guards is because Indian clerics have castigated her for wearing "unIslamic clothing" on the tennis tour.
"'The Sunni Ulema Board called Mirza a 'corrupting influence' that is 'bringing shame to Islam,' and the Jamaat-e-Ulema-e-Hind stated ominously that Mirza would be 'stopped from playing' if she did not wear 'proper clothes' - a statement that resulted in Mirza taking up bodyguards at a recent match in Calcutta."
Ted, the security guards are so some goon doesn't throw acid in her face or attack her.
Sania is the first Indian woman and the first Muslim to be ranked as high as she is (number 31 in the world) and reach quarterfinals in a major tournament. Numerous Muslim organizations in India have supported Mirza for her sports achievements. Sania, by the way, lost in the third round of the U.S. Open, defeated (6-2, 6-3) by number 6 ranked Russian Anna Chakvedadze.
Went to a few matches at the Pilot Pen Tournament in New Haven, CT last weekend. It's so good to get away. (Note to self: get away more often, much more often.) There was lots of top notch tennis talent in a very nice facility. Interesting international crowd, lots of family activities. I wasn't keen on the blaring TV commercials broadcast on the big screens during breaks though. I don't get it why the stands were only half-full for even semifinals and finals matches. Too close to the American Open?
The women's semi-finals on Friday night were between Eleni Danilidou of Greece and Agnes Szavay of Hungary. The players were evenly matched, the crowd seemed to favor Agnes. She's only 18, and went from a ranking of something like 240 last year to 42 this year. She's got super reflexes, her strokes are strong and quick, she places the ball into all areas of the court. We'll be seeing more of Miss Szavay in the future. Szavay won the semifinals in three sets (4-6, 6-1, 7-5). On Saturday, she took herself out of the finals in the second set against Svetlana Kuznetsova due to back pain. Kuzsnetsova had the strange "luck" of winning three of her matches in this tournament because her opponent dropped out. Weird. Watch for Szavay in the U.S. Open.
Tennis fans, there's a series of tennis matches around the country leading up the U.S. Open in Queens at the end of August. The last one before the Open is the Pilot Pen Tournament, held at the Connecticut Tennis Center at Yale, in New Haven, Connecticut. Top players competing there in 2007 include James Blake, Tim Henman, Andy Murray, Elena Dimentieva, Daniela Huntochova, Ai Sugiyama and Serena Williams. If the thought of going to Queens for the U.S. Open is too daunting, check out the Pilot Pen Tournament instead. It's supposed to be an intimate setting, not a bad seat in the house. Tournament info here.
Justin Henin defeated Ana Ivanovic (6-1, 6-2) in the women's final at the French Open, winning it three times in a row. It was a typical women's final rout. Men's finals are almost never so one-sided. Ivanovic was spectacular on her way to the finals, but perhaps the excitement and pressure of being in her very first Grand Slam final got to her. We'll be seeing lots more from her in the future (Reuters photo).
The women's quarterfinals and semifinals were far more exciting games. Ivanovic beat Shapaova in an equally lop-sided seminfinal (6-2, 6-1). The Serbians are coming on strong, and nobody is invincible, not even the baseline bombers Serena Williams and Sharapova. Henin, tiny though she is, has a game that's so perfect in so many ways, she's a joy to watch. So is Mauresmo, but unfortunately she chokes in the Grand Slams and often leaves early.
Amelie Mauresmo is playing Serena Williams today at 7 P.M. A MUST SEE! Totally different styles of play, Mauresmo is perhaps the most versatile women's player, very graceful, with all kinds of shots. She hasn't been impressive at the Open so far, but when her game is on, it's a joy to watch. We don't get to see her enough, American channels focus on Sharapova and Davenport. Serena has pure power, is fiercely competitive, and knows very well how to win when it counts. This could be a great game!
As good as James Blake and Andy Roddick are, they will eventually be steamrolled by Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. The Americans don't have the deep repertoire of strokes and cat-like reflexes of the Europeans. Whaling on baseline strokes only gets you so far, and is pretty boring to watch.
Why don't we get to see doubles tennis? Way more exciting than many of the singles tennis matches!
Not crazy about Sharapova's black dress for night games, even though she says it was "inspired by Audrey Hepburn." Sharapova is about as far away from the petite Hepburn as can be. The white swoosh logo is at odds with the black sequins, the collar looks Egyptian or Grecian. A bow on a tennis dress? Why is women's tennis fashion so bad? I wish Donna Karan or Ralph Lauren would design some tennis clothes. More tennis fashion criticism here.
Martina Navratilova is still competing, playing in both the women's doubles and mixed doubles. She's 50 years old!
The top two men played a total of 46 sets versus the top two women's 32 sets. The men played for 30 hours total, versus the women's 18 hours total, some 40% more time on court. Runner-up Nadal played twice as many hours (18) as runner-up Henin-Hardenne (9). The ration of winner shots to unforced errors is approximately 2.25:1 for the men, and quite a bit lower at 1.35:1 for the women. (I was wrong when I claimed earlier that the women hit more unforced errors than winners. Not at Wimbledon!)
Federer won $1,170,000 at Wimbledon, or $53,182 per set. Mauresmo (who I was delighted to see win) won $1,117,000, or $61,576 per set. Roger spent 27% more time on the court than Mauresmo, but his winnings were only 4.6% higher than Mauresmo's. Tell me again where the sex discrimination is here?
There are lots of factors that go into what athletes are paid (market forces being the biggest) and sports are as much about entertainment as athleticism. But the argument that women should get paid equal money for equal work as justification for the same prize money is bogus for Grand Slam events. There's hardly "equal work" going on out there on the courts.
Turanbout is fair play, as they say. For several years, we've been hearing that football programs aren't worth the money they cost for colleges. Football takes away money that could be spent on women's sports. Football programs attract big, dumb guys who take away scholarship money from more deserving students. According to this NY Times article about small colleges starting up football programs, that's off the mark on all counts.
"Some small American colleges, eager to attract men to increasingly female campuses, have taken notice of how many students like Mr. Bosworth can be lured to attend by adding football teams. Officials at these colleges say football can bring in more tuition-paying students than any other course or activity..."
"At a time when the image of major college football has been sullied by academic, recruiting and sexual violence scandals — and as some prominent colleges eliminate football to cope with federal gender equity regulations for athletics — many smaller institutions have embraced the sport. Since their football players generally do not receive scholarships and are not blue-chip recruits, officials at small colleges say the players tend to exhibit less of a sense of entitlement, leading to fewer academic and discipline problems. In the last 10 years, nearly 50 colleges and universities have instituted or re-instituted football, with more than 80 percent in the small college ranks."
Football programs bring numerous benefits to the schools, including increased alumni contributions, more minority students, more students from blue collar backgrounds, and more students interested in ancillary studies including band and athletic training. Verrryinteresting. Who knew football would increase diversity??
When I was in high school, I sorely resented the mandatory pep rallies held for our football team. I was not a football fan. Now I find that I enjoy watching football, and I see football players as our modern day gladiators. It's amazing that guys who are so tall and so large can be as quick and agile as the college and pro players are.
The article also dances around the issue of Title IX legiaslation and its impact on men's and women's sports programs at colleges. The results of Title IX have been mixed, with both gains for women's sports and reductions in men's sports.
I could get in trouble for this one, but contrary to IWF and this op-ed in the UK Times Online, I don't agree that women tennis players should get the same prize money as the men. As a strictly business decision, perhaps they should, since women's tennis does draw very big crowds. But from the standpoint of athletic ability, women's tennis doesn't come close to the level of play of the men's. I watch the major tennis events, and the majority of the women's matches are frankly boring. The women players typically stand back at the baseline and whale away, and eventually someone dumps the ball into the net or hits it out. There are more unforced errors than winning shots in the women's games. The men's games have a much greater variety of shots (volleys, dropshots, topspin lobs, etc), ball placement is better, and there's more of a net game. Nadal and Federer playing the French Open finals (1-6 6-1 6-4 7-6 (7-4) ) earlier this month was light years more exciting to watch than Henin-Hardenne versus Svetlana Kuznetsova (6-4, 6-4). Don't even mention last year's French Open, when Henin-Hardenne killed Mary Pierce (6-1, 6-1). The finals between the Williams sisters a few years back were usually dreadful to watch.
There are some women who are versatile and skilled, including Henin-Hardenne, Mauresmo, Capriatti, Serena and Venus Williams, Clijsters, and Navratilova (who revolutionized women's tennis and still plays doubles tennis at age 50!). But unfortunately it's rare to see a truly exciting, competitve match in women's tennis. Another reason for paying the men more $$$ is that they play more sets (best of 5 instead of 3). Not sure I'd want to watch five sets of most women's tennis, the number of unforced errors would be astronomical. But in the men's competition, the game can change dramatically in sets 4 and 5. Some of the absolutely most exciting tennis is in the fifth set, when the men are exhausted and still manage to reach deep and pull out amazing winning shots.
"Venus Williams, the defending champion and three-time winner, said the women simply want to be treated equally. "This is not just about women's tennis but about women all over the world," she told BBC Radio before Wimbledon's announcement. "At Wimbledon we would like to have equal prize money to prove that we are equal on all fronts." "
What a non sequitur! Try lasting five sets, Venus, against Federer. Then talk about being equal. More discussion on this here and here.
UPDATE: Post-Wimbledon, I looked at stats between the top two men and top two women here.
You would never believe how much fun curling is unless you see it in person! I'm live-blogging from the 2006 World Men's Curling Championships in Lowell, Massachusetts, sipping on my glass o'red wine in the Rock Garden Tent, listening to a bluegrass band. The US just won an amazing come-from-behind win against Switzerland, the last shot expertly knocked two Swiss stones out of the house. It might look like a colossal bore on TV, but it's a hoot to watch live, a combination of bocce ball on ice and chess. The US team (coming off a bronze medal win in the Winter Olympics) is doing very well, other great teams to watch are Canada, Scotland and Finland. The Swiss team had some very handsome men. There's something hilarious about men gliding around on teflon-soled shoes, furiously sweeping the ice and screaming bloody murder at the top of their lungs.
The event is at the Tsongas Arena in Lowell, MA, four games are held at one time, and games are at 9 AM, 2 PM and 7 PM. Tickets are $15 weekdays (kids under 12 free, half-price for 13-18), parking is a measly $5 adjacent to the Arena. The Tsongas Arena is modern and quite nice, there's good seating for handicapped, lots of food vendors, room for kids to run around. After the game, head over to the Rock Garden tent. A very international crowd is having a lot of fun here. Thursday night's draw looks fantastic with US vs.Canada and Ireland vs. Scotland, both sure to be great games with exuberant fans. Come on down! The games go through Sunday, April 9. Bring your flags and loud hats, cowbells and noisemakers.
In case you want to protest anything, there is a designated "Free Speech" area outside the parking garage. Nobody was protesting yet - what were they expecting?? Will go back and get a photo.
UPDATE: USA Today's coverage of last night's win here.